What's Next for Joe Maddon?

The longtime Rays manager opted out of his contract today. Where will he end up next?

The Tampa Bay Rays are in the middle of a front office facelift, with Joe Maddon opting out of his contract today after team president Andrew Friedman bolted for Los Angeles last week. Where does Maddon, a two-time AL manager of the year in Tampa, go from here?

Milwaukee Brewers, Bench Coach

Current Brewer manager Ron Roenicke served as the Angels’ third-base coach for six years before replacing Maddon as Mike Scioscia’s right-hand man. Roenicke is under fire in Milwaukee after the Brewers missed the playoffs despite leading the NL Central almost all season, and he lost hitting coach Johnny Narron and first base coach Garth Iorg. Narron’s brother, Jerry, is the team’s current bench coach, which creates a somewhat awkward dynamic considering his sibling got the pink slip and he did not. Maddon and Roenicke worked well together in Anaheim, and would rid Milwaukee of the Narron family drama they are setting themselves up for.

Atlanta Braves, Manager

Former Indians and Rangers GM John Hart just took over the reigns long-term in Atlanta, and he may not want to keep current skipper Fredi Gonzalez around. Gonzalez has had a good amount of regular-season success with the Braves, but he has won only one playoff game during his tenure and was in charge during the team’s late-season collapse in 2011. Should Hart choose to go in another direction, Maddon is the best person available, and if the Braves’ job opens, it would be his best chance to win as a manager in 2015. Also, he managed BJ Upton in Tampa for many years, so perhaps Maddon could help the struggling center fielder’s average rise back over the Mendoza line.

Here’s where things get really fun. Assume Maddon takes a year off, either in the broadcast booth, as an assistant coach, or at home. Where could he end up in 2015?

Los Angeles Dodgers, Manager

This is the obvious answer, and some are even saying current Dodger skipper Don Mattingly won’t even make it to opening day. Maddon could follow his former boss Andrew Friedman across the country to Chavez Ravine, and in doing so return to Southern California, where he spent over 30 years in the Angels’ system as a major and minor league coach. Los Angeles could have benefitted from Maddon’s closer-by-committee scheme last year, as the Dodger bullpen blew many late leads.

Chicago Cubs, Manager

Rick Renteria specializes in player development, and may not be the long-term managerial answer in Chicago once the north-siders start trying to contend. That could happen as soon as 2016, when Maddon might still be on the market. Known Maddon admirer Theo Epstein runs the show for the Cubbies. Epstein interviewed Maddon for the Red Sox job in 2004 before eventually hiring Terry Francona. Let’s face it: a new-age manager like Maddon is a perfect fit for the revolutionary Cubs, who are trying to build a championship contender with multiple batting prospects and a patchwork rotation.

New York Yankees, Manager

I’m just saying there’s a chance. Current Yankee manager Joe Girardi has made some questionable decisions in important games over the years, but has kept his seat relatively cool and never had a losing season. Girardi’s friendship with the Yankees’ core four was also helpful during his initial time in the Bronx, but the entire core four has now retired and the Yankees could soon enter a re-building project. Could general manger Brian Cashman convince Maddon to join the evil empire and re-build a team he competed against in Tampa for many years?

New York Mets, Manager

Sandy Alderson was the general manager in Oakland when Billy Beane began the Moneyball revolution. He was also in charge in San Diego when the Padres hired Bud Black, one of Maddon’s former colleagues in Anaheim, as their manager. The Mets look similar to the Rays teams of the mid-2000s that Maddon turned into contenders: lots of young, unproven pitchers and big question marks about where to find offense. Also, the second-fiddle Mets are a good fit for Maddon’s counter-culture style, and if he turned a pitching-rich, offense-poor Rays team into contenders, why couldn’t he do the same thing in New York?

ESPN, Studio Analyst

I think this is the most likely immediate landing spot for Maddon. He might not want to play second fiddle after successfully managing for many years, so pulling a Terry Francona and taking a year off from on-field operations is not a crazy idea. Additionally, Maddon has an out-there personality, so he would be entertaining to watch on TV. He was also one of baseball’s more progressive managers, employing lots of shifts and closing games by committee, so he would bring some new-school statistical insight to the network.